By Mike Steely
You’re driving down the highway and something catches your eye. Maybe your spouse or kids see it first.
“Look at that, wow!” come the remarks, followed by, “Can we stop there, please?!”
Yep, the idea of attracting travelers worked and you get off the highway or interstate and find a way to reach the object.
Odd roadside attractions date back to the earliest paved highways, long before the interstates were completed, and continue to do their assigned duty.
Like the family in “National Lampoon’s Vacation” who sought the world’s largest ball of twine, which claims to both in Cawker City, Kansas or Branson, Missouri, those unusual statues and monuments are often worth a few minutes diversion especially on a long family trip.
Several of them are within an easy day’s drive from Knoxville.
Want to see the world’s largest peanut monument?
It’s located in Ashburn, just south of Macon, Georgia, and sits just beside Interstate 75. The huge peanut was designed by A. R. Smith Jr. to honor Nora Lawrence Smith, a member of Georgia Journalism’s Hall of Fame and publisher of the “The Wiregrass Farmer.” Some people think journalists are “nuts” so the monument seems somehow fitting. It also promotes the state’s large peanut farming industry.
Ashburn also boasts a giant metal Fire Ant Statue at that little city’s Chamber of Commerce building that represents the nation’s annual Fire Ant Festival which is hosted there each year. A large cow statue also greets visitors in Ashburn’s Chevron convenience store. The Fire Ant is just across the street from city’s Crime and Punishment Museum.
It’s obvious that the folks in Ashburn want people to stop by for a visit.
An hour away, far off the interstate, is another peanut —the Jimmy Carter Peanut monument in Plains, Georgia.
The largest basketball structure in the world is right here in Knoxville at the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame but did you know that the world’s largest guitar monument is just off Interstate 80 in Bristol?
Other Tennessee oddities include the “Cast Iron Skillet Man” in South Pittsburg, the Kaye’s Ice Cream Cone signs in Knoxville, the Pink Elephant in Cookeville and Memphis has a Statue of Liberty holding a Christian Cross.
In neighboring states, a water tower is designed as a huge peach in Gaffney, South Carolina, right beside the Interstate 85 there. The world’s largest Duncan Phyfe chair is in Thomasville, North Carolina, and the largest Rocking Chair is in Casey City, Illinois. The largest baseball bat is in Louisville, Kentucky at the home of the Louisville Slugger manufacturer.